We should hate Sin because it is the enemy that dwells within us
Read Mark 7:14-23
Robert Hanssen’s arrest in 2001 brought to an end what observers called, “perhaps the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. History.” Hanssen, an FBI agent, had been selling secrets to the Soviets for 21 years. Instead of the enemy being in a far away place on foreign battlefields, the enemy had access to mountains of classified information that only a mole working on the inside could produce and regularly dropped the information for spies to collect. The enemy was within and was wreaking havoc. For almost his whole time as a double agent, Robert Hanssen worked undetected.
Galatians 5 speaks of the ongoing tension between the Spirit and the flesh showing us that believers still battle against sin. But it is not merely an outward battle, like Robert Hanssen, it is against an inward, unseen enemy. In that way, perhaps the most dangerous thing about sin is that it is within us. As an environmental poster exclaimed, “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.” A great temptation is to think that it is possible to hold sin always at arms length– that it exists in external things. That it is out in some undefined “out-there” place. The reality is we could move to the ends of the earth and not escape sin, because we carry it with us wherever we go. Jesus says in John, that everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. (John 8:34).
How did we get this way? After all, we were made by God, to know God and love God. Originally we were created without sin, But when our first parents, Adam and Eve, fell into sin, so did all those coming after them. They functioned as our representatives so that we all inherit the disposition to sin, the corruption of sin and the guilt from sin from Adam, our representative. Our minds, our actions, motives and affections were all corrupted by sin so that nothing we do is completely free of sin. Sin so pollutes the human race, and death because of sin so that we can never remember a time where sin has not been a reality in our lives and in those all around us.
In Mark 7:14, Jesus is no longer speaking to the Pharisees alone but has widened the his address and turns to the crowds to teach them that the true problem lies within them– it’s not just hypocrites whose heart is wrong– it’s everyone.
He speaks to them in a parable, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” The disciples need an explanation and ask for one when they are alone and Jesus rebukes them in verse 18, “ Then are you also without understanding?”
The point of Jesus speaking to the people was so they might hear his words and understand. The disciples again don’t get it. And in the case of Jesus declaring all foods clean, even the early church will continue to struggle for years over the issue of food– what Jews background believers can and can’t eat and what is permissible for Christians.
We need to remember: God desires purity for his people. He has always desired for his people to be set apart. One of the reasons for the dietary laws was to set them apart from the pagan nations who did not know the true and living God. The food laws kept them from closely associating with these nations and were designed to make for himself a people whose hearts were devoted to him. They were to be holy, because he was holy. Jesus isn’t denouncing the law, he is showing his authority over and above it to redefine purity.
In this way, Jesus is turning us inside out– he doesn’t care what we look like on the outside– he knows what’s in our hearts. He knows the enemy that dwells within. And he wants us to know just how messed up we are– because until we recognize our sin, and own up to the fact that we are sinners, we’ll never see the value of grace and there will never be lasting change. Until we see the enemy within us, we’ll never know how it is defeated.
I imagine that for most of us it is not new news that sin indwells us. But ironically, having heard this before is exactly what puts us in danger! We can easily grow too accustomed to the enemy that dwells within us– that we take a “live and let live” approach and we slowly come to believe that our sin is no big deal (or not as big of a deal as someone else’s sin).
When we take this approach to sin, the enemy is waging a war that we are not even acknowledging is happening. If we think that our sin is under control, or no big deal, we forget that it is the enemy that dwells within and is seeking to destroy our faith.
Ask yourself: “Do I often say things to excuse my sin like, ‘this is just the way I am‘ or ‘I’m not as bad as another person I know…” If so, you are putting yourself in a position where you are forgetting the war against sin that still wages even though the decisive victory has been won at the cross.
Tomorrow we’ll look at, “We should hate sin because it is evil.”